Pastor Scott Andrews| February 5, 2023
When Jesus showed up, He was not what anyone expected. The Jews thought they knew what Messiah would look like/do when He came. They had the profile figured out – He would come riding on a big white horse, sword in hand, and would deliver them from Roman oppression. They expected the Messiah to establish a kingdom of power and glory – in its fullness, right here, right now. If He did, would that have been good for them?
When Jesus showed up, He wasn’t what they expected at all. He didn’t walk like John Wayne, grunt like Rambo, fight like Jason Bourne. Sure, He fulfilled a few necessary prophecies. He was of the line of David – but He was the son of a carpenter. Sure, He was born in Bethlehem, but He grew up in Galilee, in Nazareth, no less. Can any good thing come out of Nazareth? Sure, He did some miracles, healed some people, the lame walked, the blind saw, He even raised a few people from the dead – just like the prophets said He would. But He couldn’t save Himself. Sure, He spoke with authority – He even ripped some people to shreds, verbally, but He was attacking the wrong guys – the religious leaders. Where was the white horse, the sword dripping with Roman blood, fire coming from His eyes? Where was the kingdom?
Everyone expected the Messiah set up a kingdom. To rule with a rod of iron. To stomp out unrighteousness – to wear a big white hat, a tin star and drink milk. All through the gospels, we find the people, even the disciples, expected Jesus to set up His kingdom at any moment. Over and over, they asked the question – is it time? Are you ready to restore the kingdom to Israel? Would that have been good?
Every time He healed someone, you can see the disciples in the background getting all excited – I love it when He does that. Once, Jesus had to withdraw from the people, because they were going to take Him by force and make Him king. And remember when He rode into Jerusalem on a donkey – the people were saying some Messiah, king-like things, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord. Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David.” I can see the disciples looking at each other, winking, high fiving, “He’s gonna do it now – this is going to be really great. I don’t understand this donkey thing, but this has to be it.”
In fact, in Luke 19 (11), right before the Triumphal entry, we read, “While they were listening to these things, Jesus went on to tell a parable, because He was near Jerusalem, and they supposed that the kingdomof God was going to appear immediately.” Would that have been good for them?
Later in the week, Jesus took the disciples to the Temple, and on the way out in Matthew 24, they asked him again, “Lord, when are you going to do it? When’s it going to happen? What will be the signs of Your coming to set up the kingdom?
Even after the resurrection, right before His ascension, the disciples were gathered around Jesus at the Mount of Olives. And they ask again, Lord, is it at this time you’re going to restore the kingdom to Israel? To which Jesus responded, “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority.” Listen, wait in Jerusalem until you receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you – then, be My witnesses, in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, to ends of the earth.
You see, it’s important we understand – the disciples, along with everyone else, were expecting something different. The Messiah, when He arrived, would set up the kingdom in all its fullness. They didn’t understand the distinction between His two comings – that there would be a second coming when He does ride in on a big white horse, and He who sits on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He will judge and wage war. His eyes will be a flame of fire, on His head will be many diadems, and He will have a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself. He will be clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called the Word of God. From His mouth will come a sharp sword, so that He will strike down the nations, and He will rule with a rod of iron and tread the wine press of the fierce wrath of God. And on His robe and on His thigh, He will have a name written, King of kings, and Lord of lords. But that’s the second coming, not the first. Here’s the question this morning – why two comings? Would it have been good if His second coming was His first?
This second coming was what OT prophets looked forward to, wrote about. It’s what the Jews were looking for when Jesus appeared. But what they didn’t understand was the mystery of the church age – the period of time between the two comings. They didn’t understand that at His first coming, He came not to rule, but to be crucified. That’s why, even though He spoke of it plainly, they didn’t get it. They were waiting for Him to come and get rid of the bad guys, but when He started talking about the bad guys getting rid of Him, it threw them off.
That’s why when He spoke of His coming death, Peter said, no way, Lord. Get behind Me, Satan. That’s why when Jesus was taken in the Garden of Gethsemane, Peter drew the sword and cut off an ear, mighty warrior that he was. That’s why, even after the resurrection, they didn’t get it, and some went back to fishing, and Jesus had to call them back to the task of fishing for men. They didn’t understand this mystery of the kingdom, that it would grow from a tiny, inauspicious beginning. They didn’t understand that all along, while the sons and daughters of the kingdom are growing, right alongside them the sons and daughters of the evil one would also grow. Because we are participants in this age-long cosmic battle.
They didn’t get it. Which is why Jesus taught them the mysteries of the kingdom. He taught His disciple truths in parables. You can read them in Matthew 13. For example, He told the parable of the wheat and the tares. Now, remember, a parable is a physical or natural story that Jesus uses to illustrate some spiritual or supernatural truth. Jesus says the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field.
After sowing the good seed, the man and his servants were sleeping. Nothing wrong with that. It’s important to understand the state of the field was not due to the negligence of the owner, but to the malice of an enemy. While they were sleeping, the man’s enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat. What’s a tare? I used to think them weeds, but they weren’t just weeds. They were a hybrid that looked like wheat – you could hardly tell them apart until they produced their fruit. And tares were poisonous hybrids that produced noxious seeds.
So, after the bad seed was sown, and the plants grew, the slaves of the landowner came to him and said, “Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? How does it have tares? Do you want us to go out and do some weeding? Do you want us to go and gather up the tares?” To which the landowner wisely responded, “No, if you do that, you might uproot the wheat with the tares. Let them both grow together until the harvest. Then, when we harvest, I’ll say to the reapers, ‘Gather up the tares in bundles and burn them up. But gather the wheat into my barns.’” So, the reapers gather both the wheat and the tares, to different ends.
What does all that mean? We’re not left to wonder. Jesus gives the interpretation of the parable. The man who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. That’s Jesus, and He is the owner of the field. The field is the world. The good seeds are the sons of the kingdom. The tares are the sons of the evil one. The enemy who sowed them is the devil, the harvest is the end of the age, the judgment, and the reapers are the angels. Got all that?
What’s it mean? Jesus is in the business of sowing good seed – sons of the kingdom, in His field, His world. We are the sons and daughters of the kingdom that Jesus has sown. Jesus is calling people to Himself – He’s in the business of sowing us throughout the world. And as much as we’d like the kingdom to be fully present, right here, right now – it’s not. Because the enemy, the devil, is oversowing the field, the world, with his sons and daughters.
So, here we are, in the field, which is the world, growing right alongside sons and daughters of the evil one. Notice, the slaves come to God and say – what’s the problem here? What’s the deal with all this evil in your field? How could a good God allow all this evil in the world? What’s the problem with your world, God – it is yours, isn’t it? Did you sow all this bad stuff?
The landowner responds, “An enemy did this.” This was not my doing. Yes, God allowed it. That’s one place where this parable breaks down – it’s not like God was sleeping while the devil did His dirty work. But God did not bring all this evil upon us – an enemy has sown evil in the hearts of people – he started in the Garden of Eden, and he’s been doing it ever since. Whenever there is a work of God in His field, you can look for Satan to come along behind Him, sowing sin, sowing evil, trying to poison, trying to disrupt the work of God. He’s done it all over the world – he’s done it here, he’s done it in your families. And as much as we cry for justice, for evil to be banished, for wrong to be made right, the truth of this parable is this: wait. It’s not time, but the time will come. It will be the job of the angels, at the harvest, at the end of time, to gather up the tares. They will be judged and cast into the furnace of fires – they will be cast into hell where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Yes, Jesus is talking about hell, and this weeping and gnashing of teeth speaks of pain and suffering. All jokes about wanting to go to hell because your friends will be there, that’s where the parties will be, etc. – no basis in Scripture. It is a place of eternal torment – day and night forever and ever, where the worm does not die, a place of darkness, of separation from God, of wailing, indeed, a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth. That’s where the tares will ultimately end up – those who do not believe the gospel and follow Jesus.
And something else to consider. Everyone in this room was at one time, a tare. Until we came to faith in Jesus, we were tares. Only God knows those who will ultimately place their faith in Him and become wheat. It is an act of His mercy and grace to allow the wheat and tares to grow together – because some tares will become wheat. And those who do will be gathered at the end of the age – they are the righteous, made so by grace through faith in Jesus. And they will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father – a direct reference to Daniel 12:3, “Those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.” Understand, we are forced to live with tares right now. But the day of harvest is coming, and when it does, we will shine.
The day of harvest is coming, brothers and sisters. Why this lengthy introduction? Because we read about the harvest at the end of the age in Revelation 14. There are two harvests, just like Jesus said there would be. Let’s read the text – Revelation 14:14-20.
This brings us to the end of a three-chapter interlude in which John gives us a view of the battle engaged between Satan and people – those created in the image of God. But, he focuses his evil intent on the people of God – followers of Jesus. We saw in chapter 12, he sought to devour Christ as soon as He was born but failed. He then turned his attention to followers of Jesus.
In chapter 13, the dragon, Satan, called forth two of his henchmen to engage the battle – the beast from the sea who is the Antichrist, and the beast from the earth who is the false prophet. The false prophet will encourage people everywhere to worship the beast, the Antichrist. He will demand they receive a mark of allegiance to the beast – without which people can neither buy nor sell. The mark of the beast is somehow the number of his name – 666. I suggested we will know the Antichrist and the False Prophet when we need to know, and we will know the mark of the beast when we need to know and refuse it.
In chapter 14, John saw a further vision – or three visions. Each are set off by the words, And I saw, in verses 1, 6, and 14. The first was of the Lamb standing victoriously on Mt. Zion with the 144,000. They sang a new song – the song of the redeemed – that only followers of the Lamb could learn.
Then, last week, we saw the second vision – the second And I saw – in verses 6-13. That was a tough text. There, we saw an invitation to believe the eternal gospel, and the fate of those who refuse – those who worship the beast and take his mark. That fate is summed up in the words, eternal torment. While not a popular teaching today, and being dismissed by even some professing believers, we find it clearly taught – perhaps most explicitly – by Jesus.
Which brings us to the final vision, the third, And I saw, in verses 14-20. At first glance and in the midst of judgment, it seems like these could both be referring to judgment harvests. But the question is, why would we get two harvests back to back, saying basically the same thing? And notice I said, basically because there are some significant differences. Which has led me and others to conclude, these are two different harvests, with the following outline:
- The Grain Harvest of the Righteous (14-16)
- The Grape Harvest of the Unrighteous (17-20)
Let’s look at these briefly – noting how they fulfill what Jesus said in the parable of the wheat and the tares. Starting with verse 14 where we see a white cloud, and one sitting on the cloud like a son of man, having a golden crown on His head and a sharp sickle in His hand.
Lots of discussion about whether this figure is Jesus. Clearly, he somewhat fits the description of Jesus from Revelation 1, where He is also called a son of man – exact same phrase – and both refer to Daniel 7 where one like a Son of Man with the clouds approaches the Ancient of Days to receive dominion, glory and a kingdom which will never be destroyed. Further, He is wearing a golden crown on His head, which is similar to Revelation 19 which says He wears many diadems. And we also find in many places Jesus will return in the clouds:
Matthew 24:30 – “And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory.”
In Mark 14:62, when was asked if He was the Christ, Jesus responded, “I am; and you shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.”
I Thessalonians 4, which most see as the rapture passage – I see it as the rapture passage and it’s described here in Revelation 14 – which speaks of the future second coming of Christ. But I Thessalonians 4 says, For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.”
So I, and most others believe this to be Jesus coming at the end of the age to harvest the earth – as we read about in the parable in Matthew 13. Remember, in that chapter when Jesus gives the parable, He says, “Allow them [the wheat and the tares] to grow together until the harvest; and in the harvest I will say to the reapers, ‘First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn.’” Later, when He interprets the parable, He says, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man…The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness.” Again, I think that’s what we see happening in Revelation 14 – the first harvest of the wheat being gathered into His barn, to be with Him, the second harvest of the tares – in this case, grapes – to be cast into the wine press of the wrath of God.
By the way, Matthew 24 which speaks of Jesus returning on the clouds of the sky says in the next verse, “And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other.”
Now, some don’t see this as Jesus because the next verse in our text says another angel came out of the temple, crying out with a loud voice to Him who sat on the cloud, “Put in your sickle and reap, for the hour to reap has come, because the harvest of the earth is ripe.” The problem, they say, is that an angel commands Jesus to do something – put in His sickle. But that’s not really a big deal – notice the angel came from the temple – that is, from the presence of God the Father. The implication is the command comes from the Father to the Son through an angel or a messenger.
Notice before we go to the harvest of the unrighteous that the hour to reap had come, and the Son of Man puts in His sickle to reap – to take out His people first. Because the harvest was ripe – it was ready. And we remember Jesus told His disciples to go share the good news of the gospel, because the harvest is plentiful, because the fields were ripe to harvest. There are those to be reaped. The Son here swings His sickle – a long stick with a curved blade made for reaping – He swings His sickle and the earth was reaped. But there is no mention of judgment or punishment – which is quite different from the next harvest. Because, I think they are two different harvests. This one leads to the children of God being called out of the earth – raptured if you will. Also, remember, this is all taking place in the future, at the end of the age at the return of Christ.
Which brings us quickly to the harvest of the unrighteous in verses 17-20. We notice right away the differences – difference in tenor, in the reaping, and in the result. Look at it. We see another angel comes out of the temple in heaven as well – again, speaking of the authority of the Father – comes out with a sickle – that instrument of reaping. Then another angel, the one who has the power over the fire, came out from the altar. Stop right there. This angel had the power over the fire. This likely speaks of the angel in chapter 8 who, with a censer or firepan, took the fire from altar of incense mixed with the prayers of the saints, and hurled it to the earth. With it were peals of thunder and flashes of lightning. Immediately following the seven trumpets begin to sound. Here’s the point – this angel had power over the fire from the altar of incense – that which was mixed with the prayers of the saints. Those prayers, for example, we saw in chapter 6, when they asked God how long until He avenges their blood on the earth. God gave them white robes and told them to wait for a while longer. Now, it appears it is a while longer.
You see, the angel of the altar told the angel with the sharp sickle to put it in and gather the clusters from the vine of the earth, because her grapes are ripe – ready for judgment. And then he swings his sickle and the grapes of the earth are reaped – gathered, and thrown into the great wine press of the wrath of God. We remember from last week, those who worship the beast and take his mark are made to drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is mixed in full strength in the cup of His anger. Here, the scene is changed somewhat – instead of drinking the cup of wrath, they are the grapes of wrath pressed in the wine press of God’s wrath.
It’s no doubt an allusion to Joel 3:13, speaking of the Day of the Lord when the nations will be judged, which reads, “Put in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe, Come, tread, for the wine press is full; The vats overflow, for their wickedness is great.”
Verse 20 – and the wine press was trodden. You likely know, back then, a wine press was made of two levels/vats – the first which held the grapes and were tramped with bare feet, and the second below which collected the juice. Here, the grapes are trodden outside the city – probably the holy city of Jerusalem, speaking of those who opposed the holy city and holy people of God.
And the blood – now the image changes – and we remember it is apocalyptic imagery – and the blood came out of the wine press up to the horses’ bridles – several feet high – for a distance of 200 miles – more literally, 1600 stadia, which is 184 miles.
Remember again, this is apocalyptic imagery. Grapes go in, blood comes out. Several feet high for 1600 stadia. That likely refers either to the distance from north to south of the nation of Israel, or it is 4 – the number of the earth – squared times 10 – number of perfection – squared. 1600 referring to the absolute and complete reaping of the unrighteous on the earth.
I’m out of time, but what do we do with this today? There are two harvests of the earth coming, and trust me, you want to be found in the first harvest – gathered as followers of Jesus. And that’s only possible because there were two comings. It would not have been good if His second coming was His first – if there was only one coming. You see, if Jesus came the first time as King of kings and Lord of lords, bearing a sword instead of a cross, a crown of gold instead of a crown of thorns, there would be no first harvest. Because we all would still be unrighteous, harvested as grapes of wrath. But in His first coming, Jesus endured the cross for us, bearing our sins, so that by faith in His work alone, we can be made righteous.